Better Never Than Late

Usually I’m a ‘do-it-now’ type, mostly because I have a shitty memory and if I don’t ‘do it now’, I’ll forget about it forever.  Or, if not forever, at least until somebody says, “Weren’t you supposed to have done that last week/month/year?”

But sometimes I know that a task needs to be done, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.  Usually I suck it up and do it anyway after a bit of procrastination, but sometimes… I just… don’t.  Even though I know I should.

For example:

My step-mom lives over 2,000 kilometres away, so I only get to visit her about twice a year.  When I was there a couple of years ago I made cioppino (a kind of seafood soup/stew) for supper.  The leftovers got stashed in the fridge, and the next day I went home.

Six months later, I was back.  My step-mom lives alone, but she has two fridges.  And what did I find, lurking at the very back of the very bottom shelf of the fridge that rarely gets used?

You guessed it.  That bowl of leftover cioppino.  Covered with clear plastic wrap that displayed all its grotty black edges and fuzzy white spots, while sealing in what was undoubtedly the stench to end all stenches.

But I didn’t deal with it right away.  I was only there for a few days, and we were busy.  I forgot all about the Black-Death-In-A-Bowl.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Six months later…

It was still there.

I’m not normally squeamish.  In our household I’m the one who guts the fish, butchers the meat, bandages the wounds, and cleans up the vomit.  But I avoided The Bowl That Shall Not Be Named.  I didn’t even mention it to my step-mom, because that would have meant admitting I had known it was there all along… and then one of us would have to deal with it.

A few days later I cravenly fled home.  Cringing with shame, but not ashamed enough to actually deal with that vessel of festering putrefaction.

Six months later…

It was gone.  I heaved a huge but secret sigh of relief and said nothing.

Later I was yakking on the phone to my niece, who had been out to visit my step-mom just before I’d made my latest visit.  “Yeah, we cleaned out the fridge,” she said blithely.  “There was a bowl in there that was just…”

I burst out laughing.  “That was you?  You finally dealt with the bowl?”  I confessed the whole sordid story and added, “I just couldn’t bear to open that up and wash out the bowl.  You’re a better woman than I.”

She started laughing, too.  “No, I’m not.  I buried it.”

Buried it?  Bowl and all?”

“Yep.  I just carried the whole thing out behind the shed and dug a hole and put it in.  I nearly puked when I covered it over and it squished up through the dirt…”

By then we were crying with laughter.  Dang, I wish I’d thought of that solution a year ago!

So, tomorrow I leave for my step-mom’s again.  By the time I arrive she’ll have read this and I’ll have to offer my abject apologies; but I can’t promise I’ll never do it again.

And I think cioppino is permanently off the menu.

What your finest example of procrastination?

Flying Food

Last week’s post reminded me that I’m no stranger to flying food.  In fact, it may have contributed to my lifelong antipathy toward dressing up and attending formal functions.

First, a bit of background:  I grew up on a farm ‘way out in the sticks.  We dressed up for church, weddings, and funerals, and the rest of the time I ran wild outside.  So dress-up occasions came with considerable tension and discomfort: “Don’t do anything to get your good clothes dirty” meant ignoring my most fundamental personality traits.

When I was a teenager, my cousin’s wedding reception was held in the Fort Garry Hotel, the grandest historic hotel in Winnipeg.  There was a buffet, and I was on my best behaviour in my best dress.  We were working our way through the buffet line and my dad was ahead of me, chatting to whoever was ahead of him.

Remember the restaurant scene in Pretty Woman where the snail shoots off her plate only to be fielded by a deadpan waiter?

Yep, you guessed it.  Not versed in buffet etiquette, I had just taken a piece of pineapple with my fingers.  As I moved the slippery morsel toward my plate, my dad gestured animatedly.  (Apparently it runs in the family.)  His hand smacked mine, and the pineapple sailed across the fancy ballroom to disappear under one of the white-skirted tables.

I envied it at that moment.  I felt like vanishing under one of the tables, too.

Fast-forward to my first year of living in residence at the University of Manitoba.

Thanks to Chris K., a mature student who took this wide-eyed country bumpkin under his (platonic) wing, I finally learned some basic table manners such as holding my fork between my fingers instead of clenched in my fist like a weapon.  My image makeover continued while I observed and copied the fashion choices of my oh-so-sophisticated interior design classmates.

By the time I went on my first date (!) to a fancy restaurant (The Keg – hey, it was a whole lot fancier than anywhere I’d ever been), I was prepared.  I wore fashionable clothes; I knew how to hold my fork; I even successfully identified the bread-and-butter plate.  It was winter, so I was wearing my best (okay, my only) full-length coat.

Dinner went without a hitch and the bill was uneventfully paid.  When we finally rose from the table I turned to leave, swinging my coat dramatically over my shoulders… and it caught a full pitcher of ice water on a nearby ledge.

I didn’t look back to see whether it had landed on the floor or the neighbouring diners.  Head high, I swept out of the restaurant in my dramatic coat, the clattering of ice cubes and cries of dismay fading behind me.

It was a long time before I felt even remotely comfortable in a nice restaurant.  And I’m still VERY careful when donning my outerwear near other diners.

Anybody else have food-flinging tendencies?  (Remember the snail scene from Pretty Woman?  It runs from 1:50 to 2:35 in the video).

Training Cookies

I was chatting with my step-mom last week when she reminded me of a memory that made me smile:  the year I got my training cookies.

If you’re scratching your head right now, I don’t blame you.  Most people would agree that a bit of training is helpful before tackling some of the more complex foods, but everyone knows how to eat cookies.

Unless they’re me.

I can dismantle and gobble down a steamed lobster in record time.  Sushi?  No problem; I can handle chopsticks, and I’m such a food-geek that I actually know obscure sushi etiquette like never mixing the wasabi into the soya sauce and always eating nigiri so the fish contacts your tongue first.

But cookies?  Well… apparently they’re trickier.

It all started years ago when my dad and step-mom came to visit me in Calgary, bringing my step-mom’s famous ginger-molasses cookies.

We had been driving around enjoying the sights on a nice spring day, and we stopped at a convenience store to get some cold drinks.  Parked comfortably in the shade, we were sitting in the car with the windows open while enjoying our refreshments and some of the fateful cookies.  As usual, I was talking volubly with my hands.  I was also holding a cookie at the time.

I made one particularly emphatic gesture and the cookie flew out of my hand, out the open window to land with a plop on the asphalt beside the car.

Mouth gaping, eyes wide, I sat there in shocked silence.

I had wasted a cookie!  For a food-worshipper like me, it was sacrilege!  Worse, I had wasted a delicious cookie that had travelled 800 miles just to tickle my tastebuds!

The silence lasted only a second or two before my companions burst into uproarious laughter.  And sure enough, when next Christmas rolled around, guess what I found under the tree?

Remember the children’s mittens that were joined together with a cord that went up one sleeve, around the neck and down the other sleeve so the mittens never parted company with the jacket?  (And theoretically, with the child?)

Yep, I’d gotten training cookies:  Two tender and tasty ginger-molasses cookies, each with a neat hole in the middle.  A festive ribbon joined the two cookies at exactly the length required to fit around my neck while holding a cookie in each hand.

Ever since then, that recipe has been known as “Training Cookies” in our household.  The cookies themselves are yummy, but the memory is sweeter than any baked goods could ever be.

I’m probably the only person in the world who needs training cookies, but if you’re in the market for a chewy and delicious ginger-molasses cookie recipe, here it is:

Training Cookies

¾ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons dark molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the egg and molasses and beat.  Mix in dry ingredients.  Roll into balls, dip in sugar, and flatten with a fork.  Bake at 350 degrees approximately 10 – 12 minutes until just beginning to brown at the edges.  Happy memories can be baked in, or added later!

Anybody else have a family recipe with special memories?

Sordid Chocolate Mousse

As you’ve probably guessed if you’ve read my books, I’m a foodie – I love to eat, try new foods, and cook.  Although when things go awry the way they did this week, well… not so much.  But I’m addicted to recipes, and the internet is my evil enabler.

So this week I got sucked in by Blender Chocolate Mousse from a local food blogger’s site:  Dinner With Julie.  The recipe required a blender (quelle surprise), which I rarely use because it’s a pain in the ass to clean. But all the stars and planets had aligned:  I had my food processor out anyway, I happened to have whipping cream in my fridge, and the recipe sang its siren song.

(Note the critical disparity in the previous paragraph:  Blender Chocolate Mousse.  I have a food processor.  This is how fiascos begin.)

Per the instructions, I chucked the chocolate in the food processor, poured in the hot custard, and fired that sucker up.  Knowing that disaster lurks behind the simplest activities, I heeded Julie’s advice to put a towel over the food processor just in case.  But it performed faultlessly – not a single drop of chocolate marred my towel.  Smugly congratulating myself, I removed the towel and took off the food processor lid.

That’s when everything went to hell.

Blenders have watertight lids.  Food processors have lids with a large hole in them for the pusher device.  As soon as I tilted the lid to scrape the mousse off the inside, the pusher thing fell out on the counter.  It was, of course, covered with liquid chocolate mousse.  It bounced.  Several times.

Chocolate mousse splattered over several feet of counter, the backsplash, other appliances and me.  That generated some creative language, but little did I know it was only a foreshadowing of things to come.

The blending bowl in my food processor has an open tube in the centre for the driveshaft, and the blade housing sits atop it.  So you have to remove the blade housing before you pour anything out of the blending bowl.

Liquid chocolate mousse is really slippery.  The blade housing is a smooth plastic cone.  I couldn’t get hold of it.

After scrabbling uselessly at it for longer than I care to admit, I finally brained up and hooked a spatula under the blade.  When I pulled it out, chocolate mousse dribbled through the bowl opening, all over the driveshaft, and all the way to the sink; but by then everything was so sticky that it didn’t make much difference.  I poured the mousse into ramekins and turned to the cleanup.

In my defense, I’d like to reiterate that it was chocolate mousse.  And wasting chocolate is a crime.

At least, that was my excuse when Hubby rounded the corner and caught me licking the shaft of the food processor.  For the record, there are few things more embarrassing than getting caught performing fellatio on a kitchen appliance.  Especially when it’s one you don’t even love.

I mean, I could be forgiven for getting it on with my sexy European tomato press.  Even being caught in the act with my virile high-powered juicer wouldn’t have been so bad.  But a chocolate-smeared food processor?  It just seemed so… sordid.

Anyway, I got the kitchen cleaned up at last, and the mousse was delicious – silky-smooth and over-the-top chocolatey.

But I’m not sure it was worth it.

* * *

New discussion over at the VBBC:  Arnie and John – Friends Or Rivals?  Click here to have your say!

The Spandex Menace

I just got back from another road trip, and I feel it’s my duty to warn everyone about the threat I discovered while travelling:  stretch pants.  They may feel comfy, but the truth is that those spandex tubes are plotting against our health and fitness.

Oh, they conceal their evil intentions well enough.  They call themselves ‘exercise wear’ and pretend to encourage us in a healthy lifestyle, but all the while they’re sabotaging our efforts.  In fact… (call the tabloids, ‘cause this is hot stuff) spandex actually nourishes fat cells.

How did I determine this, you ask?

Through rigorous scientific observation and testing, of course.  After all, have you ever known me to jump to a conclusion or engage in hyperbole?  Never in a million-zillion years!

Here’s how I figure it:

I’m normally a jeans girl.  Whether I’m digging in the garden or working on a car or banging together some ridiculously over-engineered carpentry project, jeans provide practicality, comfort, and protection.  But when I know I’m going to be sitting in the car for hours at a time, I change into stretch pants.  So last week I put on the spandex and hit the road.

Well.  Let me tell you.

After six days, I donned my jeans again only to discover that my butt runneth over.  My muffin-top has grown into a dinner roll.  And the only possible culprit is (you guessed it) stretch pants.

I mean, really, it couldn’t have been anything else.  I was eating my usual three meals a day plus one dessert.  Maybe the meals were approximately double my normal portion; but six days shouldn’t make that much difference, right?  I even skipped my four o’clock snack most days, so I’m sure I should’ve been losing weight.

And eating a giant ice cream cone every day couldn’t have been the cause.  Ice cream is a dairy product, which is healthful.  Health food couldn’t possibly make me gain weight.

Plus, all that time in the car was hard on my nerves, and everybody knows stress ratchets up your metabolism.  I should have been melting the pounds away.  It’s simple logic.

But I didn’t.  So it must have been the fault of the stretch pants.

Those bastards clung to my body for six straight days, whispering sweet nothings to my fat cells and feeding their egos until they swelled up like little pillows.  Then the fat cells invited all their friends over to my waistline and had themselves a party.  The friends invited more friends, and pretty soon the whole place was overflowing.

Now, like disapproving parents, my jeans have returned to the scene of the party to evict the interlopers.  So far they’ve only succeeded in squeezing them up and over my waistband, but I hope if I call the calorie police right away they’ll be able to banish the last of the stragglers.

But meanwhile, no more stretch pants.  Take it from me, those suckers are the enemy.

Remember, you heard it here first!

* * *

New discussion over at the VBBC:  Stemp Then And Now.  How has Stemp changed the series, and how has it changed him?  Click here to have your say!

That Turkey Neck Seems Glad To See Me…

Warning: This post may leave you with a permanent aversion to turkey necks… or perhaps an unhealthy attraction to them.

It’s surprising how often I have a week where the coincidental funnies all have a similar theme. That’s what happened this week: it was all (loosely) food-related.

The first laugh occurred when I was eating lunch, digging happily into a giant jar of sauerkraut. (For those who are shuddering right now, Hubby completely agrees with you.) But I love sauerkraut despite the fact that it looks like something long-ago-drowned and smells like rotting socks.

You know how you’ve got that one little spot in your throat that’s supersensitive to everything from toast crumbs to pickle juice? That spot where the slightest touch makes your throat spasm and your eyes tear up and your nose run; and if you try to talk you sound like the Godfather with laryngitis?

Yeah, that one. I’d like to know what evolutionary function that stupid little spot ever served. It can’t be some built-in defense against poisoning, because by the time anything gets down that far it’s already too late.

Anyhow.

I got a tiny bit of sauerkraut juice on that spot. And my throat closed and my eyes teared up, etcetera. After I’d finished hacking and mopping up tears and was capable of speaking again, I croaked, “Got some sauerkraut in the wrong spot.”

To which Hubby wryly replied, “Oh, you mean ‘in your mouth’?”

The second laugh (albeit accompanied by a shudder of revulsion) happened when I was cooking a turkey on Saturday; a largish bird because we were going to have ten people around our table.

What’s funny about that, you ask? Well, the story started last week when one of my internet searches went off into the weeds, and in the process of navigating back I ran across onanism (children, take your hands out of your pants and look that up). That led to the unwelcome discovery that medieval women sometimes used turkey necks for, um, non-nutritional purposes.

Eeeeuuuwwww! Consider how rarely they bathed in the first place, and then add some lovely Eau de Decomposing Meat on top of that… *shudder*

So you can imagine the look on my face when I dragged out THE BIGGEST HONKIN’ TURKEY NECK I’VE EVER SEEN from the cavity of this bird. I wasn’t sure whether to blush, laugh, or gag. (I laughed, of course.)

The final bout of laughter occurred several hours later when we were all sitting around stuffed with the aforementioned turkey. (Note: We stuffed ourselves from the top down, not from the bottom up. Just wanted to clarify that.)

Anyhow, this was a pseudo-Christmas bash because we hadn’t gotten together in December, so a few small gifts were exchanged. Ever the queen of refined taste, I had made these hot-pads for the cat lovers:

It's a cat-owner’s most frequent view of the cat.

It’s a cat-owner’s most frequent view of the cat.

Merriment ensued, but we lost it completely when one of my friends (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) not-so-innocently remarked, “Gee, you could have made it really Christmassy by leaving a bit of tinsel hanging out of the hole.”  If you’ve ever owned a cat or dog, you know how that story goes.

And that was my week, from beginning to, um… end.  How was yours?

(Your week, not your… oh, never mind.)

A Mashup Of (Mostly) Food

(Don’t worry, it’s safe to read this.  I promise it’s not about gross squished food.)

I’m a little scattered this week. Between my usual writing schedule, my cover updates (only one more to go, woohoo!), the production of the Never Say Spy audiobook (up to Chapter 39 and sounding great), and the busy round of Christmas cards and baking and extra social activities, my brain just doesn’t seem to want to disgorge any sort of organized blog post.

So what the hell, why fight it? Here’s a mashup up of some goodies that have caught my eye and tweaked my sense of humour lately:

You may recall that I mentioned OBSL in a post a few years ago. At the time, I created that acronym to describe my hypothetical Optimum Beer Saturation Level: That perfect point of intoxication at which I become a deadly 8-ball player. When I wrote that post I assumed that I was (as usual) full of shit.

Little did I know that greater minds than mine were busily proving me right. In fact, a recent study shows that there is an OBSL, and it occurs where your blood-alcohol level is 0.075. Unfortunately for my hypothesis, they weren’t testing for 8-ball skill; instead they were focusing on the OBSL as it relates to creativity.  And shortly after science delivered its verdict, some brilliant marketers capitalized on it. Voilà! The Problem Solver: A beer that comes with a creativity scale on the side. Dang, I could’ve used some of that stuff when I started writing this post…

And speaking of happy discoveries involving my favourite foods, science has come through yet again with a discovery that turns peanut butter into… wait for it… diamonds! Apparently it’s messy, but it works. (It was also just a publicity stunt.  It seems peanut butter isn’t an optimum diamond-producing substance.  Go figure.)

Unfortunately, though, the news from food scientists isn’t all good. The latest studies indicate that comfort foods can actually be depressing. Bummer.  Now I need to go and eat a bowl of ice cream.

Moving on from science to silliness (though still food-related), here are a few fortune cookie predictions I could have done without:

“You learn from your mistakes. You will learn a lot today.” – Great, just great.

“Your true love will show himself to you under the moonlight.” – Uh… okay, so my true love is a deranged flasher.  Will there be criminal charges or jail time associated with this?

“You have an unusual equipment for success; use it properly.” –  I guess if I was a guy, I’d know exactly what to do with my unusual equipment, but under the circumstances I’m just not sure how to interpret this.

“Wisdom is on her way to you.” – This one might be intended to encourage, but for me it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the cartoon about the guy reading a fortune that says ‘Big things are coming your way’ just as a grand piano drops from the sky above him. Wisdom sounds like a good thing in theory, but it seems to me that the phrasing is a little ominous.

I’ll leave you with a cartoon that sums up my attitude when things get as hectic as they are now.  And hey, it’s food-related, too!

* * *

P.S. Here’s Book 8’s new cover, with many thanks to John R. for arranging my great truck-driving adventure and letting me photograph his truck:

Cremation, Cucurbits, And Coc… Erm… ‘Roosters’

This week’s silliness comes to you courtesy of my friend and long-suffering employee, David, who went to considerable effort to snap the following photo for me:

Ummm…. Okay…?

Ummm…. Okay… There’s an unexpected combo…

This is why David and I have worked together so well for so long: a complete meeting of minds over all things even remotely humorous. We laughed ourselves silly(er). Cremation and hospitality? Is there a brew pub in the basement so you can suck back a few pints after immolating the mortal remains of your loved ones? Or maybe they rent out the chapel for weddings and bar mitzvahs in between memorial services?

I guess it could be worse, though. My mind immediately leaped to other unfortunate potential combinations like ‘Cremation and Wild-West Weenie Roast’, but maybe that’s too tasteless entirely. (And there’s nothing worse than a tasteless weenie.)

Speaking of weenies, last week I speculated that my zucchini might have suffered shrinkage due to the frosty outdoor temperatures. Eh, no. Not even close.

Just as plump and perky as ever (the zukes, not me).

Just as plump and perky as ever (the zukes, not me).

I realize these are nothing compared to the behemoths that grow in more temperate climates, but those gardeners know better than to turn their backs on a zucchini plant for two weeks at a time. I shoved these bad boys into the downstairs fridge, and when I went down to check on them the next day they’d wedged themselves against the door in a bid for freedom. I’m pretty sure they’re still growing. Maybe the researchers who developed Viagra should be studying zucchini right about now.

Anyway, floating along this stream of consciousness…

I spotted this on my walk yesterday:

Yes, that says ‘Rooster Scented Jasmine Rice’

Yes, that says ‘Rooster Scented Jasmine Rice’

For those of us who grew up on a farm, this brings to mind (or rather ‘to nose’) a far-too-vivid image. Have you ever smelled a rooster? Nasty. Just nasty.

But it could have been worse. They might have used a synonym for ‘rooster’. I’d love to see the reactions of passersby if they’d been advertising ‘Cock Scented Rice’.

Maybe you think I’m reaching a bit with that thought, but I assure you I’m not. This fine product is available from Amazon if your local grocery doesn’t carry it: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Cock-Flavored-Soup-Mix/dp/B002Q46EH6

Yes, this is a real food product.

Yes, this is a real food product.

And speaking of Amazon, I just had to share a capture of the screen that displayed when I looked up the soup mix. Note the ‘Also-Viewed’ offerings: ‘50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes With Balls’, and ‘Aunty‘s Spotted Dick Pudding’.

Amazon has a dirtier mind than I do.

Amazon has a dirtier mind than I do.

Ahem.

As usual, my stream of consciousness has carried me far past the point where I should have paddled hurriedly ashore and portaged past the treacherous bits.

So, leaving behind the sordid beginnings of this post, I’ll finish off with something bearing no connection to cremation, cucurbits, or cocks. (Though, come to think of it, it does include two out of three of those. Dang, if I’d had Aydan eating zucchini instead of peas from her garden I could’ve scored the trifecta.)

Anyway, voilà: I’ve finally finished another cover update. This one’s for Book 3: Reach For The Spy:

Reach For The Spy cover updated 2015

Quite a change from the original, but I didn’t feel comfortable pointing even an unloaded weapon at my photographer friends.

 

Snow And Shrinkage

So it snowed on Friday. Yes, in mid-August: http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/summer-snowfall-near-calgary-greeted-with-only-in-alberta-sentiment-1.3200450

Only a couple of weeks ago we hit the hottest temperature in 110 years of recorded Calgary temperatures: 34 degrees Celsius (93F). I know that’s not terribly hot compared to the rest of the world, but we thought we were going to melt. Then Friday morning it started dumping down rain, a north wind blew in, and by 4 PM it was 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 F) and… yes, snowing.

Leaping to the rescue of our veggies, Hubby and I drove to our garden outside town, where we pulled out our three big 30×40 tarps and covered most of one garden (the potatoes and onions had to fend for themselves). When I mentioned I was thinking of burrowing under the tarps to pick a couple of zucchinis before they got too big, Hubby replied, “No, don’t worry, they’ll shrink in this cold weather.” I promptly snorted tea through my nose at the mental image of shrivelled, flaccid zukes huddled shivering under the tarp.

Which, of course, reminded me of this scene from Seinfeld.

And while I’m in that, erm… area, let me tell you about the gigantic rod of hot meat I got in my Brazilian last night. It was amazing! It just kept coming and coming until I was so sore and exhausted I had to beg for mercy…

Wait, why are you looking at me like that? I was talking about a Brazilian barbeque restaurant. What did you think?

Yes, we went to Bolero for dinner last night: a meat-lovers’ heaven. Fixed price, all you can eat. There’s a salad bar, too, but don’t be distracted from the main event (which my friend Laurie terms ‘meatatarianism’). The servers keep bringing gigantic skewers of barbequed meat to carve at your table until you beg them to stop. Last night it was bacon-wrapped filet mignon, garlic parmesan sirloin, habanero pork loin, lamb shoulder, bacon-wrapped chicken, and a few others I can’t remember, including some squares of amazing grilled halloumi (Arabic cheese that has a very high melting point), and absolutely delicious grilled pineapple. Yes, I was in pain afterward, but it was so worth it!

Meanwhile, I’m slowly resurfacing into real life after my burial in the last-minute minutiae of releasing Spy Away Home. Emerging dazed and blinking, I’m looking around and realizing I haven’t done anything silly for a very long time (unless you consider gorging on meat to the point of pain to be silly).

This needs to be remedied – I don’t dare let my silliness levels drop too low or I’ll wake up some day to find myself dressed in a suit, sitting at a boardroom table and nodding seriously while somebody drones on about ‘leveraging synergies’ or some shit.

So please help me out here: What’s your favourite silly activity, one that’s guaranteed to make you laugh?

Oh, and in the mean time, here’s a little gem I found on Facebook that helps explain our attitude to snow in August:

Canadian temperature conversion

P.S. Spy Away Home is now available for pre-order at all retailers – click here for links.  Release date September 4, 2015!

Crazy Cones And Cockroaches

Yaaaa-hoooo!! It’s Stampede Week here, and the usual happy insanity reigns.

I love the Calgary Stampede. If I had time (and if I wasn’t too cheap to pay the daily $18 admission fee), I could easily spend days there. The free exhibits are fascinating: circus acts, horseshoeing contests, tractor pulls, Superdogs, team penning competitions, art shows, native cultural displays, live bands, extreme BMX/motocross/snowmobiles; you name it. There’s even the Cannon Lady getting shot out of a cannon several times a day.

The giant midway doesn’t really attract me, though. The rides are expensive, and I can’t quite get over the knowledge that they’ve been knocked together in record time by sleep-deprived carnies fresh off the road. Or worse, fresh off their last party. I know they have a stellar safety record, but… I’m just sayin’.

The rodeos are fun to watch, too, but I rarely go to them. Tickets are pricey, and there are so many other things to see and do that I just can’t fit it all in. Not to mention I can’t help giggling at the thought that rodeo is clearly a sport designed by men, for men. A bunch of guys giving each other prizes for their ability to stay up for 8 seconds…? Boys, I hate to break it to you, but an 8-second ride ain’t gonna do it for the ladies!

Speaking of rides to remember, I noted a few years ago that the Stampede is a prime opportunity to get the gift that keeps on giving. Syphilis was the big winner when I wrote that post four years ago, but in true Stampede spirit we’re diversifying. Now gonorrhea and chlamydia are getting their fair share of erm… exposure, too. So before you ride that cowboy, you might want to slap a latex saddle on his pocket bronc.

If you’re looking for a slightly less risqué adventure, the Stampede offers lots of scope for risky business of the culinary variety.

Last year’s scorpion pizza was a big seller, and this year foodies were eagerly anticipating the cockroach pizza. Alas, they were doomed to disappointment: Apparently the shipment of dead cockroaches from Vietnam got delayed at the border. (There’s a unique first-world problem.)  But our indomitable pizzameister promises they should be in soon, so the pizza might get its cockroach crunch before the end of Stampede.

I dunno; I expend a considerable amount of effort to avoid eating food containing cockroaches, but I guess that’s just me.

And in case your stomach wasn’t upset enough after the rides and cockroaches, you can also get a cup of mini-doughnuts topped with cheese curds, gravy, and jalapeños. I’m not sure why you’d want to, but you can.

Or, if you’re looking for a treat that’s both risky and risqué, how about a Crazy Cone:

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

The last time I saw something like that, I was in a sex shop. (Doing research on Lola’s merchandise for my novels. Honest. That’s my story and it’s sticking to me.)

Anyway, no Stampede Week is complete without the requisite crazy-citizen stunt, so here it is: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-man-soars-over-city-in-lawn-chair-attached-to-helium-balloons-1.3139591.  Some folks’ll do anything to get high…

What’s risky or risqué in your neck of the woods this week?